A few days ago I posted a rather critical assessment of a Lincoln documentary that aired on the National Geographic Channel. I stated that the program was light on information, that it lacked focus, and that its use of contemporary images was questionable.
Not long after I posted this item, I received a reply from Mr. Fritz Klein, who portrayed Lincoln in the documentary’s re-created segments. (You can visit his website here.) He provided me with some information that leads me to qualify some of my statements, and his remarks are worth presenting in full:
Just FYI, this doc was made for a European audience and bought by NG to be re-authored for both a condensed version on Inaugural night, and a fuller version on President’s Day. It was originally called “Lincoln’s Last Night” and focused on the assassination. Most of that, the meat of it, was cut for the NG airing. The issues you brought up were addressed initially by yours truly when I first read the script, but because it was for a Euro audience, they became non-issues.
Since the material was produced for an overseas audience, I was probably too harsh in calling it too basic and straightforward. Being an American, it’s easy to take the broad outlines of Lincoln and the Civil War for granted. The fact that this was originally an assassination documentary also makes some of the filmmakers’ emphases more sensible. The segment on photography, for instance, focused on Lincoln’s last photograph, and I’d imagine that the material on Civil War railroads originally tied into the funeral train’s journey from Washington to Springfield.
While it seems my foot managed to find its way to my mouth, this whole thing does raise an interesting question: What is the current state of European knowledge about Lincoln and the Civil War? It’s a subject worth exploring in some detail, and I thank Mr. Klein for his comments.